I recently did some research on corned beef and found some unsettling information about its past. This delicious dish has a decidedly unsavory past. During the 17th to 19th century most of Ireland’s fertile lands were taken oven by the British to be used as cattle grazing fields to produce corned beef that would be sent to Britain, France and America. Due to the preservation technique of corning beef it could be shipped all over the world. The Irish people were left with only marginal farm lands and needed to turn to the potato for much of their food consumption. They did not get to enjoy the beef. When the potato famine hit many people in Ireland starved.
Let us not blame the corned beef but the culture. Has this changed? Have we learned from our past? Looking at farming practices of today it does not seem like we have learned a thing.
This Saint Patrick’s day I propose that you corn your own beef, preferably a free range locally produced beef, purchase a potato from a local farmer or make sure it is not a russet but a more obscure potato, and buy local cabbage.
Raise your glass of Guinness (room temperature) and remember the Irish folks who may have suffered for the corned beef. Let’s make this holiday one to celebrate the hardy Irish people and not green cupcakes.
Remember the past because it is being repeated….
Ok, so I am now going to hop off of my soap box and corn some beef.
Please take the time to cure your own beef. The results are amazing. It is not hard, you just need to get started right away for it to be done by Saturday and you need to space in your fridge.
Recipe from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Rhulman and Brian Polcyn (this is an interesting book and I cannot seem to put it down…)
Homemade Corned Beef Recipe
2 tablespoons black peppercone
2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons all spice berries
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 cinnamon sticks broken into pieces
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 gallon water
2 cups kosher salt
½ cup sugar
5 teaspoons pink salt
3 garlic cloves minced
4 tablespoons pickling spice (see above recipe)
1 5lb beef brisket (first cut)
- Make the pickling spice
- 1. Lightly toast the peppercorns, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds in a small dry skillet, then smash them with the side of a knife just to crack them.
- 2. Combine the cracked spices with the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Store in a tightly sealed plastic container or glass jar.
- Make the brine
- 3. Combine the water, salt, sugar, pink salt, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the pickling spices in a pot large enough to hold the brisket comfortably. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate the brine until it’s completely chilled.
- 4. Place the brisket in the brine and weight it down with a plate to keep it submerged. Refrigerate for 5 days.
- 5. Remove the brisket from the brine and rinse it thoroughly under cool running water. (Resting is not required here because the distribution of the brine will continue in the long, slow cooking process.)
- Cook the corned beef
- 6. Place the brisket in a pot just large enough to hold it and add enough water to cover the meat. Add the remaining pickling spice and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for about 3 hours, or until the brisket is fork-tender. There should always be enough water to cover the brisket; replenish the water if it gets too low.
- 7. Remove the corned beef from the cooking liquid, which can be used to moisten the meat and vegetables, if that is what you’re serving (see headnote). Slice the corned beef and serve warm, or cool, then wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve, or for up to a week.